Teacher Toolbox

Overarching Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Explain the central idea of a primary source.
  • Accurately summarize the key details and ideas in a primary source.
  • Evaluate differing points of view on the same historical event by using primary sources.
  • Evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats.
  • Analyze a primary source and relate it to an issue of the past

C3 Framework Alignment

The C3 Framework focuses on developing students’ ability to “frame and advance an inquiry”—a question.  “These questions come in two forms: compelling and supportive.”* Each of Engaging Congress’ 30 primary sources is introduced with a splash screen containing a compelling question.  As a student works through the source, subsequent screens lead them through a series of supporting questions and answers to help them develop responses to the compelling question.

*College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards: Guidance for Enhancing the Rigor of K-12 Civics, Economics, Geography, and History


Topic/Story: The Federal Budget (A Balancing Act)

Compelling Question:  To provide for the common good, how should our nation generate revenue in a way that is fair to all?
Primary Source: “The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor” (painting)

Compelling Question:  How do we equitably collect the revenues needed to run our government?
Primary Source: 16th Amendment Resolution

Compelling Question:  How do we most fairly distribute the great wealth of our nation?
Primary Source: The New Man on the Job (political cartoon)

Compelling Question:  What are the challenges to establishing a federal budget?
Primary Source: Senator Robert Taft, 1940 (photo)

Compelling Question:  How do we fairly share the cost of running our government?
Primary Source: Total Federal Revenue (pie chart)

Compelling Question:  How do we fairly set priorities for the federal budget?
Primary Source: Total Federal Spending (pie chart)


Topic/Story: Federalism and States' Rights (Fair is not Always Equal)

Compelling Question:  How do we balance the rights of individual states with the rights of the nation?
Primary Source: U.S. Constitution, Article 6, Section 2

Compelling Question:  How do we fairly divide power between the federal government and the states?
Primary Source: U.S. Constitution, 10th Amendment

Compelling Question:  How can we best balance “fairness” with “equality?”
Primary Source: Governor George Wallace (photo)

Compelling Question:  In a nation of great diversity, how do we decide what is "fair” for all citizens?
Primary Source: Ruby Bridges with U.S. Marshals (photo)

Compelling Question:  How can we guarantee equal rights for all citizens?
Primary Source: Same-Sex Marriage Laws (map)

Compelling Question:  How do we ensure an individual's freedom of choice granted by the Constitution?
Primary Source: Loving v. Virginia (Supreme Court decision excerpt)


Topic/Story: Separation of Powers (Laws & Sausages)

Compelling Question:  How do we fairly divide power among the three branches of government?
Primary Source: U.S. Constitution, Articles I, II, III

Compelling Question:  How do we ensure that money does not influence public policy?
Primary Source: A Visit to the Big Store (political cartoon)

Compelling Question:  How is the legislative process like making sausage?
Primary Source: Chicago Sausage Factory (photo)

Compelling Question:  How do we maintain the “separation of powers” guaranteed by our Constitution?
Primary Source: United States v. Nixon(Supreme Court decision excerpt)

Compelling Question:  How do we guarantee the integrity of our democracy?
Primary Source: President Nixon's Resignation Letter (photo)

Compelling Question:  How can we prevent one branch of government from becoming too powerful?
Primary Source: Presidential Vetoes (chart)


Topic/Story:Influencing the Political Process(More Equal Than Others)

Compelling Question:  How can we guarantee equal access to the political process?
Primary Source: The Gerry-mander (political cartoon)

How do we adhere to our democratic principle of “one person, one vote?”
Primary Source: Electoral College Map

Compelling Question:  How do we protect the integrity of our elections?
Primary Source: Electoral College Resolution

Compelling Question:  How do we create a system in which every citizen’s vote has equal weight?
Primary Source: Citizens United Resolution

Compelling Question:  How do we guarantee each individual’s right of “free speech” while guarding against unlimited money in elections?
Primary Source: Granny Haddock (photo)

Compelling Question:  How do we provide equal representation to all our citizens?
Primary Source: Firefighter Poster


Topic/Story: Voting Rights

Compelling Question:  How do we safeguard the right to vote guaranteed by the 15th Amendment?
Primary Source: Death at the Polls

Compelling Question:  How do we create an inclusive nation and ensure that there are no ongoing obstacles to voting?
Primary Source: First Vote (newspaper sketch)

Compelling Question:  How should we develop the informed citizenry that is necessary to sustain democracy?
Primary Source: President Grant Proclamation on the 15th Amendment (newspaper)

Compelling Question:  How do we, as a nation, protect the rights we grant?
Primary Source: President Johnson (photo)

Compelling Question:  Who should have the right to vote in a representative democracy?
Primary Source: Suffragists at the ballot box (photo)

Compelling Question:  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 removed many obstacles to voting but how do we prevent new obstacles from challenging voters’ rights?
Primary Source: Voting Rights Act of 1965


Topic/Story: The Executive Branch (Presidential Power Struggle: Congress Checks and Balances)

Compelling Question: What is the best way to maintain the balance of power between the president and Congress?
Primary Source: The Trial of Andrew Johnson (magazine cover)

Compelling Question: How much authority should presidents have to act on their own?
Primary Source: WWI Recruiting Poster

Compelling Question: What role should Congress have in choosing the president’s closest advisors?
Primary Source: President Clinton meeting with foreign leaders (photo)

Compelling Question: How does the president’s power as commander in chief overlap with the Congressional authority to declare war?
Primary Source: Iraq war protest (photograph)

Compelling Question: Does the way our government decides how to spend taxpayer dollars work?
Primary Source: National Park Service locations (map)

Compelling Question: Why should Congress have the opportunity to override a presidential veto?
Primary Source: President Trump veto message (Congressional Record)


Topic/Story: The Judicial Branch (Establishing Justice: Congress and the Courts)

Compelling Question: Should the Constitution be amended to specify a term limit for federal judges?
Primary Source: U.S. Constitution, Article III

Compelling Question: How should we select judges to guarantee their impartiality?
Primary Source: Judicial circuits 2020 (map)

Compelling Question: How does Lady Justice symbolize our commitment to fair and impartial justice?
Primary Source: Lady Justice (map)

Compelling Question: Who decides what is or is not good behavior for a judge who has been appointed for life?
Primary Source: Impeachment of Judge Ritter (newspaper article) - The Key West citizen. [volume] (Key West, Fla.), 17 April 1936. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress

Compelling Question: What factors should be considered when deciding to increase or decrease the number of Supreme Court justices?
Primary Source: FDR’s Courtpacking Proposal (political cartoon)

Compelling Question: How does the number of judicial vacancies highlight conflicts between the President and Congress?
Primary Source: Appointment of Federal Court judges (chart)